Einstein is quoted as saying "Science without religion is lame, religion with out science is blind". I do not intend on proffering another deconstruction of this statement. Rather, my take on the differences and their social implications of the entities involved. The scientific community often finds its self at loggerheads with the religious community. In the best situations this is an important balance for the dialectic, but zealotry (on both sides) has made what could be a healthy check and balance system into a prolonged intractable argument that is ultimately no longer a benefit to anyone.
Pure science for science sake can be seen as amoral. Biological principals and lifting the curtain to the very workings of the universe infringe on what was once only the providence of ethereal "creators". Furthermore, animal testing, the use of embryonic stem cells and genetic manipulation used to advance medical science seems to violate a religious moral code. Compounding these impressions are the barriers created by the rigors of academia. In other words, it changes a person on a fundamental level to achieve the level of expertise required so much so, that it gradually becomes harder for a layperson to relate or understand the complex issues being addressed.
Religious communities are also by their nature just as guilty of being elitist. They draw; hard, deep and wide lines in the sand that specify a mandatory belief system. I would argue similar to that of the education of a scientist. These beliefs are studied and discussed in theory and as practice. Religious texts are poured over and gleaned for meaning just as much as any on a topic in the sciences. Passion and resolve are created in its ardent followers with what I believe is not ill intended motivation. (I feel comfortable speaking about religions generally and all inclusively because I am also not specifying any scientific subset either, I can assure you that physicists and biologists are as different as Muslims and Catholics despite the similar backgrounds of both groupings.)
Where the similarities break down however, is change. Religion evolves as much as any social entity, I doubt any modern follower of a religion would even recognize the earliest incarnations of their faith. All things created by man are subject to mans own shortcomings. Religion is a creation of man. Society has changed significantly since the formation of most religions and as such, religion has been forced to keep up. Science on the other hand is willing to throw out its most deeply held "belief" if sufficient evidence to the contrary is presented in a; repeatable, testable, consistent, way and is replaced by a new "belief" with higher predictive power.
My proof of this statement is easy, find four books, one scientific textbook from near the turn of the century, and a current text of the same discipline, likewise obtain two copies of a religious text from corresponding time periods and compare each set for any contrasting elements or concepts. The difference becomes stark. It is evolving interpretations of static data that allows religion to stay current, where science relies on consistent interpretations of evolving data as new methods and new technology sharpens our view of the world.
Next time: now that we have established the generalized modes of thinking, how do they interact?